Local, vibrant, elegant. These are the words that lingered in my mind after a delightfully dynamic afternoon of wining and fine dining at the elite Restaurant Pearl Morissette.
Located in Jordan, just a short jaunt away from NOTL (Niagara-on-the-lake), this restaurant has made its way into many magazines, blogs and every other media outlet imaginable—and for good reason too!
It struck me as interesting when I was interviewed for a natural wine company a few months back in Europe and Pearl Morissette came up in casual conversation. In fact, the name came up a few more times in my own circle of Italian food lovers who had heard of the Canadian restaurant with a slow approach. As a gastronome and a Canadian one at that, I decided that I needed to check it out for myself, especially if it was known even across oceans.
Given the unique way that life works out sometimes, I was lucky to learn that Pearl Morissette is quite close to my parent’s new place in Niagara. I was also fortunate to learn that while bookings at Restaurant Pearl Morissette disappear quite quickly, the unpredictability of Covid closures meant I was able to secure a reservation sooner than I had imagined.
Three weeks later, a legendary tasting menu with my parents had arrived.
Driving through the snow-covered farm, beyond the giant red cardinal at the land’s edge, we came across cattle grazing on bales of hay and finally, a large back barn. Contrasting the dark exterior of the barn-turned-restaurant, rays of sunlight pierce through the dining room and offer spectacular views of the vineyard below. Conservatively classy, bouquets of foraged greenery top each table except for one that faces the open kitchen, that’s neatly organized with stacks of plates, cutlery, wine glasses and a large crystal cloche.
While the menu is a complete surprise, the one thing you can choose is wine. Although there is a wine pairing option for each course, we opted for a bottle to share instead. While I haven’t studied wine at length, I’ve read that more often than not a dry riesling is never a bad choice, which our sommelier also deemed reasonable.
Note that Pearl Morissette boasts a restaurant and a bakehouse, but the winery is actually what is the real point of intrigue. Celebrated for the minimalist wines crafted by François Morissette, Pearl Morissette focuses on low intervention processes that showcase the terroir of Canada. In this way, no two wines are ever the same, but this is what makes these wines all the more intriguing.
We had the pleasure of tasting a crisp, mineral and almost honeyed riesling, the 2018 Cuvée Black Ball Riesling. A lovely companion to all of the dishes we enjoyed…even the lamb!
While the menu changes frequently–usually every couple of weeks—the offerings always focus on spotlighting the best of the Canadian landscape. That means that many dishes are representative of what grows locally.
So what was on the menu on this fresh February afternoon? Eleven courses of elegance, each draped in decadence but also simplicity….
Galloway beef tartare with smoked whitefish roe and mustard greens on a buckwheat wafer
Salt baked celeriac and apple with bay leaf and lemon thyme
Sourdough made with rye and hard red spring wheat topped with whipped bran and germ butter
Grilled lobster with pecan and chervil topped sunchoke purée
Red squid in a hay-infused beef and mushroom miso broth
Navy beans with house-cured ham over a carrot purée
Pasture raised grilled lamb with slow roasted garleek and potato cream
Eweda, an aged sheep’s milk cheese from Blyth Ontario
Sea buckthorn sorbet and sour cream ice cream dusted with pine
Black koji mille feuille layered with miso caramel and sweetgrass chantilly topped with hazelnuts and a side of sourdough treacle
Buckwheat tart with rosehip custard and preserved blueberries
My personal favourites were the grilled lobster, the navy beans and the mille feuille…naturally these were the dishes that screamed luxury. All rich in their own regard, I was surprised by the stunning flavours of sunchoke alongside a buttery claw of lobster and the salty smokiness of PM’s own cured ham. As for that dessert, it was the most luscious final finish to an already stellar meal.
Another notable mention, however, goes to the lamb dish. Not only was it served with unique cutlery—the sharp edge of the knife was actually the blunt side—but the roasted garleek was also just plain fabulous. A garlic and leek fusion, the veggie is grown on site and can only be found at RMP, which is a little bit sad for me because it is probably my new favourite vegetable.
The other honorable mention was the cheese course that ended our savoury portion of the menu. A raw sheep’s milk cheese, the Eweda was like an earthier gouda with salt crystals. But the wine pairing, a glass of Slovenian Burja, made the cheese all the more dreamy. A slightly sweet orange wine made with native zelen grapes, this pairing reminded me just how perfect wine and cheese are together!
As for the cost? A pretty penny perhaps, but sometimes life is meant for moments of indulgence. I think that the experience is definitely worth every dollar. The focus on using local ingredients to prepare such gorgeous and delicious dishes is immeasurable.
All in all, RMP is definitely a place to dine at if you want to experience something different. If the bakery and the minimalist wines don’t win you over, then the restaurant surely will!